Block intends to explore legal action against Hindenburg Research
#Hindenburg Research has published a short report on Block (SQ), formerly known as Square, stating that the firm’s “2-year investigation has concluded that Block has systematically taken advantage of the demographics it claims to be helping.
The “magic” behind Block’s business has not been disruptive innovation, but rather the company’s willingness to facilitate fraud against consumers and the government, avoid regulation, dress up predatory loans and fees as revolutionary technology, and mislead investors with inflated metrics.”
The firm, which discloses that it has taken a short position in shares of Block, contends that the company “has misled investors on key metrics, and embraced predatory offerings and compliance worst-practices in order to fuel growth and profit from facilitation of fraud against consumers and the government.”
In addition, it believes “Jack Dorsey has built an empire-and amassed a $5 billion personal fortune-professing to care deeply about the demographics he is taking advantage of. With Dorsey and top executives already having sold over $1 billion in equity on Block’s meteoric pandemic run higher, they have ensured they will be fine, regardless of the outcome for everyone else.”
Block said in a statement: “We intend to work with the SEC and explore legal action against #Hindenburg Research for the factually inaccurate and misleading report they shared about our Cash App business today.
Hindenburg is known for these types of attacks, which are designed solely to allow short sellers to profit from a declined stock price. We have reviewed the full report in the context of our own data and believe it’s designed to deceive and confuse investors. We are a highly regulated public company with regular disclosures, and are confident in our products, reporting, compliance programs, and controls. We will not be distracted by typical short seller tactics.”
Baird analyst David #Koning comments on a short report that is significantly weighing on Block shares in pre-market trading, noting that the report implies that the company’s CashApp is reasonably easy, or relatively easier than other banking services, for criminals to use and claims that CashApp is somewhat complicit in allowing this type of behavior.
However, the firm believes Block helps many underbanked access the financial markets and “like any organization probably has some clients that are criminals.” The firm views the stock as good value, but is concerned with the prevalence of any criminal activity and how this could impact investor sentiment, estimating that “in a pretty dire case” shedding 20% of accounts could impact about 8% of total gross profit. Baird has an Outperform rating and $92 price target on Block shares, which are down about 20% to $58.07 in early trading following Hindenburg Research’s short report.
KeyBanc analyst Josh #Beck sees “no merit to the disparaging claims” made against Block by a “smaller outfit” that published a short report and rather views the report as “observations from a relatively novice industry outsider who is not familiar with standard operating practices and principles within the FinTech industry.”
The firm, which said Block is subject to numerous laws and regulations as a financial services provider, believes Block “fully complies with applicable regulations and laws and prevents the maximal amount of fraud possible within a business that is inherently subject to, while not immune to, any instances of fraud.” KeyBanc has an Overweight rating and $100 price target on Block shares,
Mizuho analyst Dan #Dolev says Hindenburg Research’s short report “makes valid arguments,” such as the slowdown in inflows and sustainability of the instant deposit fees.
While this might increase regulatory scrutiny, other claims and risks around high, unregulated interchange fees and definition of monthly users are well known to investors, the analyst tells investors in a research note. The firm says other aspects of the report, like adding back stock based compensation after Block publicly shifted focus to include non-cash expenses in operating income, “may hold less water.”
Mizuho says the near-term bull case on Blok remains reaching better than expected profits helped by cost control. The long-term bull case remains creating a “unique” closed-loop payments network by connecting merchants and consumers, the firm adds. It has a Buy rating on the stock with a $93 price target.
Raymond James contends that this morning’s short report on Block issued by Hindenburg Research doesn’t include a lot of “new” news or a “bombshell” and argues that the biggest risk is potentially drawing scrutiny from regulators and politicians, which could create an overhang on the stock.
However, given the situation concerning SVB Financial (SIVB) and the current banking fallout, the firm would guess “this is way down the list of priorities” for financial regulators at this time.
The firm, which adds that “while being accused of overstating users certainly isn’t positive,” notes that there are no accusations of fraudulent accounting and the “revenue is real.” Raymond James has a Market Perform rating on Block shares.
RBC Capital analyst Daniel Perlin made no change to the firm’s Outperform rating or $95 price target on shares of Block. The firm says the short report that was released today focuses on Block’s “underbanked” user base, as being a series of bad actors, enabling the overstatement of its users metrics, as well as BNPL via its acquisition of Afterpay, systematically embracing predatory pricing, the analyst tells investors in a research note.
RBC Capital’s view of the stock is unchanged, but thinks the negative overhang can persist for some time.
Shares of Block are down 20% to $58.10.
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